Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Marc Dutroux, A Pedophile and Child-Killer

A Trial to Remember

Marc Dutroux, 2004
Marc Dutroux, 2004

The long awaited trial opened on March 1, 2004. Before it began, Dutroux had already told the media that he was just a pawn in a network of pedophiles and that Michel Nihoul, also on trial, was the brains behind the network.

The following day, the prosecutor, Michel Bourlet, seemed to agree that Dutroux was not acting on his own, but was part of a network, along with Nihoul, colleague Michel Lelievre and his former wife, Michelle Martin. However, Bourlet did not suggest that the network was any larger than the individuals who had already been charged with Dutroux.

On the third day of the trial, reported that Dutroux claimed that Lelievre and two police officers had actually helped him kidnap An Marchal, 17, and Eefje Lambreckx, 19, who were found raped and murdered. He accused his co-defendants of murdering Eefje and An, as well as two other girls.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the Telegraph U.K. reported that Judge Jacques Langlois, who had compiled an enormous body of research on the case, testified that over the years, Dutroux honed his stalking, abduction, rape and brainwashing skills.

Langlois also testified that Dutroux's ex-wife, Michelle Martin, left two girls to starve while Dutroux was in prison. He said that "Ms Martin had told him she had been asked by her husband to feed Lejeune and Russo when he was jailed for four months for car theft in late 1995." But she was afraid that the girls would attack her.

March 4 brought the testimony of Judge Jean-Marc Connerotte who told the court that he was personally shocked at the "terrifying professionalism" that Dutroux displayed when he constructed the cell in his home to hide his victims. The cell had been specially designed to ventilate the air from the ceiling so that it would be difficult to detect the girls even with K-9 units.

Sabine Dardenne, victim
Sabine Dardenne, victim

Evans-Pritchard also wrote that Connerotte broke down in tears when he described "the bullet-proof vehicles and armed guards needed to protect him against the shadowy figures determined to stop the full truth coming out. Never before in Belgium has an investigating judge at the service of the kind been subjected to such pressure. We were told by police that [murder] contracts had been taken out against the magistrates." Connerotte testified that the investigation was seriously hampered by protection of suspects by people in the government. "Rarely," he said, "has so much energy been spent opposing an inquiry." He believed that the mafia had taken control of the case.

Connerotte was removed from the case after attending a dinner for the families of the victims, which instigated the protest march of some 300,000 people in Brussels. He had rescued two of the girls from the dungeon under Dutroux's home. When he tried to get them to come out of the dungeon, they were afraid that the pedophile group was coming to collect them and clung to Dutroux for protection.

"They thanked and embraced him, which is truly disgusting," Connerotte claimed. "That shows how far they had been conditioned."

The judge blamed the local police in the city of Charleroi for neglect and incompetence in their investigation and lack of follow-up which resulted in the starvation deaths of Melissa Russo and Julie Lejeune, both 8 years old.

On March 18, a new controversy arose when a handcuff key was found in Dutroux's cell, apparently smuggled in a salt bag. Prison authorities were accused to trying to arrange Dutroux's escape. The alleged murderer had already accomplished one earlier prison escape.

Laetitia Delhez, victim
Laetitia Delhez, victim

On April 19, one of Dutroux's rape and kidnap victims, Sabine Dardenne, 20, told the court of her ordeal with the defendant when she was 12 years old. She had been held captive for 80 days in Dutroux's dungeon and vehemently rejected his apology given in court. reported, "As Dutroux watched with a smirk from the dock, she told the court he had made her believe her parents had abandoned her after refusing to pay a ransom for her release. She said Dutroux had posed as her protector, telling her he was keeping her from his boss who wanted to kill her."

On April 20, when Dardenne returned to a second day of testimony, wrote that she "objected that Dutroux implied he had kidnapped another victim in 1996 to find her a friend."

"Is it not possible to silence this man?" she asked.

When Dutroux said he had protected her from a pedophile network, she countered, "So, if I understand you, I should be thankful?"

Another of Dutroux's victims that lived to testify against him testified that day. Laetitia Delhez, 22, was also rescued from the cellar along with Dardenne.

Defense lawyer Ronny Baudewyn was also outraged at the comments that Dutroux made to and about his victims.

On April 21, reported that co-defendant Michel Nihoul, a businessman, emphatically denied that he was in any way involved with Dutroux's crimes. Unlike Dutroux, Nihoul is not imprisoned during his trial.

The trial is expected to last into May.

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